13 Incredible Things To Do In The Inside Passage Of Southeast Alaska

13 Incredible Things To Do In The Inside Passage Of Southeast Alaska - Glacier Bay National Park

Southeast Alaska’s Inside Passage is one of the most breathtaking places I’ve ever been! The whole region is bursting with natural beauty, rich Tlingit culture, delicious food, and ample opportunities for adventure. In this guide, I am sharing 13 of the best things to do in the Inside Passage!

Disclaimer: This blog post is in collaboration with Visit Southeast Alaska. Some parts of the article also feature affiliate links, which means I get a small commission if you make a purchase (at no extra cost to you). It’s one of the ways I can keep producing free guides and resources for my readers. Learn more about my affiliate policy here. Thank you for the support!

13 Incredible Things To Do In The Inside Passage Of Southeast Alaska

If Southeast Alaska isn’t on your bucket list yet, you need to add it now! I have explored the Inside Passage on three separate trips and each visit was truly incredible. My most recent trip was in August 2021 (read next: Epic 6 Day Southeast Alaska Itinerary) and I am already brainstorming a return visit.

Before we jump into it… you may be wondering where exactly is the Inside Passage? The ‘Inside Passage’ is referring to a coastal route that navigates through a network of passages and islands on the Pacific Northwest Coast of the North American Fjordland. Some of these islands are located in the Alaska panhandle (United States) and some are located in British Columbia (Canada). All the destinations in this guide are located in the USA, as those are typically the most visited areas of the Inside Passage.

The Inside Passage is commonly explored via cruise ship but can also be visited via flying and sometimes driving. I have done both options and find that they have different advantages and disadvantages. Overall I like the style of travel I took on my most recent Southeast Alaska trip (a combination of planes and driving).

Ok, let’s jump into the best things to do in this region of the US!

Kayak Chilkoot Lake in Haines

Kayak on Chilkoot Lake

Chilkoot Lake is one of the most beautiful, accessible spots in Southeast Alaska. Only a 15-minute drive from downtown Haines, you can drive right up to the shoreline and enjoy the views from the comfort of your car. Or, if you really want to see the best of this area, my suggestion is to take a kayak out onto the lake.

With a kayak you will get incredible views of the surrounding mountain peaks, you can get up close and personal with some of the streams that feed the lake, and even spots some bald eagles or brown bears along the shoreline. You can use your own kayak and gear, or take a guided tour and they will supply you with all the gear you will need.

Suggested tour: Guided Chilkoot Lake Kayaking with Rainbow Glacier Adventures

Location: Chilkoot Lake State Recreation Site – 10 Mile, Lutak Rd, Haines, AK 99827. Get directions on Google Maps

Suggested Haines accommodation: Chilkat Inlet Retreat Yurts, from $100/night for 2 people

More water-based tour options in Haines:


13 Incredible Things To Do In The Inside Passage Of Southeast Alaska - Visit Sitka National Historical Park

Visit Sitka National Historical Park

Sitka National Historical Park may be Alaska’s smallest federally recognized park, but it is packed full of beauty and certainly worth the visit if in this part of the Inside Passage. This park protects the battleground of the invading Russian traders and native Tlingit tribes.

Here you will find a gorgeous loop trail through the woods, coastal views, wildlife, historical information about the area, and old Tlingit totems. The park itself is within walking distance of downtown Sitka, so it’s a great spot to visit if you don’t have a vehicle.

Optional ranger-led tours: Porch Talk, Guided Totem Park Walk, or a 2nd Floor Tour of the Russian Bishop’s House. Book here.

Location: 103 Monastery St, Sitka, AK 99835. Get directions on Google Maps

More things to do in the Sitka area:

Nearby accommodation options:


13 Incredible Things To Do In The Inside Passage Of Southeast Alaska - Stay In An Off Grid Yurt in Haines

Stay in an Off-grid Yurt

Staying in an off-grid yurt is a must during your time exploring the Inside Passage of Southeast Alaska! Chilkat Inlet Retreat Yurts offers visitors a unique accommodation experience right on the shore of the stunning Chilkat Inlet.

The property currently has 4 bookable yurts, each with its own unique location on the property. Guests have access to their own heated yurt, as well as a shared lodge building that has a full kitchen, a large seating area, and wifi.

Visitors also have access to the property’s beach which boasts endless mountain and ocean views. Chilkat Inlet Retreat is only 8 minutes from downtown Haines, 1 minute from the Mount Riley trailhead, and 20 minutes from Chilkoot Lake making it the perfect basecamp for adventures when staying in Haines.

Book your stay: Chilkat Inlet Retreat Yurts, from $100/night for 2 people

Location: 4 mile, Mud Bay Rd, Haines, AK 99827. Get directions on Google Maps


Spot Bald Eagles in Juneau

Spot Birds of Prey at Eagle Beach

Located near Juneau, the Eagle Beach State Recreation Area is known for wildlife viewing. It’s common to spot bald eagles and black bears when visiting this part of the Inside Passage. Eagle Beach also has beautiful views of the Eagle River, Lynn Canal, Chilkat Mountains, and the Juneau Mountains.

You can park in a few different pullovers and parking lots when exploring Eagle Beach State Recreation Area. I recommend checking out both Eagle Beach itself and also the parking lot just before that. From there you can walk to a small bridge where bears are often spotted fishing for salmon (we saw two black bears!) The GPS coordinates are 58.5260845, -134.8148374 for that viewing bridge.

Location: The Tongass National Forest, 28955 Glacier Hwy, Juneau, AK 99801. Get directions on Google Maps

Suggested Juneau accommodation: Silverbow Inn Hotel and Suites, located in downtown Juneau

Juneau wildlife tour options:


13 Incredible Things To Do In The Inside Passage Of Southeast Alaska - Hike Mount Riley in Haines

Hike Mount Riley

Mount Riley is the most popular mountain trail close to Haines, and for good reason. Hikers pass through a lush forest covered in moss and other greenery before being rewarded with epic 360-degree views at the summit. The hike totals 5 miles roundtrip and around 1700 feet of elevation gain, so make sure to pack some snacks and plenty of water.

Remember to be bear aware when hiking in Alaska. Read my guide on hiking bear safety precautions. I also recommend downloading an offline trail map for this hike to ensure you don’t get lost. My prefered method is via the Gaia GPS App and you can click here to get 20% off a premium membership.

Guided tour option: Full-day Mount Riley Hike from Haines

Location: 59°11’45.3″N 135°25’13.3″W, Mud Bay Road, Haines, AK 99827. Get directions on Google Maps

Suggested Haines accommodation: Chilkat Inlet Retreat Yurts, from $100/night for 2 people

Enjoy hiking? Check out this nearby Full-Day Chilkat Inlet Coastal Hike from Haines


Visit Glacier Bay National Park

Visit Glacier Bay national Park and Preserve

Glacier Bay National Park is one of 8 national parks in Alaska and a personal favorite of mine. Over 1000 glaciers, dramatic mountains, and plentiful wildlife are the biggest draws for visitors to Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. In my opinion, it’s the BEST thing to experience in the Inside Passage.

With no road network nearby, Glacier Bay National Park is most often accessed on a cruise ship, or by taking a guided tour boat or scenic flight out of Juneau or Gustavus. Another popular way to explore the park is by sea kayak. There are companies that offer fully outfitted tours, or you can self-guide if you have the necessary open-water experience.

Getting to Glacier Bay National Park:

Suggested tour from Gustavus / Bartlett Cove: Glacier Bay National Park Day Tour ($227.17 for adults, $117.83 for children 3-12)

Location: 179 Barlett Cove Road, Gustavus, AK 99826. Get directions on Google Maps

Accommodation near Glacier Bay National Park:


13 Incredible Things To Do In The Inside Passage Of Southeast Alaska - Watch Brown Bears in Haines

Watch Brown Bears in Haines

Want to view brown bears (also known as grizzly bears) in Alaska but don’t want to pay a fortune to do it? Haines is the perfect spot, especially during the salmon run (typically sometime in August).

Bears can be seen in the whole region surrounding Haines, but are most reliably spotted along the Chilkoot River fishing for salmon that have moved upstream to spawn. Some smart bears have also started to use the river’s weir to make their fishing even easier, so be extra vigilant when driving by this area. Please be sure to only use the designated pull-outs for wildlife viewings and don’t block the road.

Remember to be bear-aware when sightseeing in Alaska, carry bear spray*, and never get close to wild animals. Read my guide on bear safety precautions. *You can’t fly with bear spray, so buy locally, or ask if your accommodation can lend you some.

Guided tour options: 3 Hour Chilkoot Wilderness and Wildlife Viewing Tour or Focus on Haines Private Wildlife & Photography Tour

Location: All over, but a good spot to watch bears fishing for salmon is by the Chilkoot River Weir in Chilkoot Lake State Park. Get directions on Google Maps

Suggested Haines accommodation: Chilkat Inlet Retreat Yurts, from $100/night for 2 people

Want to get out on the water to explore the Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve? Check out this amazing rafting tour with Rainbow Glacier Adventures.


13 Incredible Things To Do In The Inside Passage Of Southeast Alaska - Hike the Harbor Mountain Trail in Sitka

Hike the Harbor Mountain Trail

Harbor Mountain Trail is one of the most popular hiking trails near the city of Sitka in Southeast Alaska. It’s a relatively easy hike that offers epic views over the Sitka Sound and surrounding mountains. Due to its popularity, it’s a good trail for those less comfortable traveling in bear country as you are likely to cross paths with other hikers.

Keep in mind that the Harbor Mountain Trail is accessible from a couple of different spots and is also often called the Gavin Hill Harbor Mountain Trail. We opted to hike the trail from the trailhead on forest service road NF-7576 (also known as Harbor Mountain Road) and traveled out and back across Harbor Mountain Ridge to the Gavan Hill Hut. In total, the hike was just under 5 miles roundtrip and about 1000 feet of elevation gain. Check out this guide for information on hiking the entire trail.

Remember to always be bear-aware when hiking in Alaska. Read my guide on hiking bear safety precautions. I also suggest downloading an offline trail map for this hike to ensure you don’t get lost. My preferred method is via the Gaia GPS App and you can click here to get 20% off a premium membership.

Guided tour option: Debi, a Sitka local, offers guided hiking tours in the area. Click here for more information.

Harbor Mountain Trailhead location: The trailhead/parking lot is at the end of forest service road NF-7576 (also known as Harbor Mountain Road), north of downtown Sitka. This is a gravel road but does not require 4×4 or high clearance. Get directions on Google Maps

Nearby accommodation options:

More things to do in the Sitka area:


13 Incredible Things To Do In The Inside Passage Of Southeast Alaska - Visit Mendenhall Glacier

Visit the Mendenhall Glacier

Another gem of the Inside Passage! At over 13 miles long, the Mendenhall Glacier is one of the most beautiful and accessible glaciers in North America. Located just a short drive from the city of Juneau, visitors can drive themselves or take a shuttle.

Once there, the glacier can be viewed from a short walking trail that starts at the visitor center. You can also consider walking to Nugget Falls (2 miles) or stopping by Steep Creek to watch salmon spawning. You can often view bears in this area!

Alternatively, if you’d like to get up-close with the Mendenhall Glacier you can take a guided tour. There are many options for tours that include kayaking / canoeing, helicopters, glacier trekking, float trips, and more!

Note that there is a $5 per person entrance fee to visit Mendenhall Glacier, payable at ticket machines on arrival (they take card).

Location: 6000 Glacier Spur Rd, Juneau, AK 99801. Get directions on Google Maps.

Tour options for exploring Mendenhall Glacier:

Suggested Juneau accommodation: Silverbow Inn Hotel and Suites, located in downtown Juneau


13 Incredible Things To Do In The Inside Passage Of Southeast Alaska - Prince of Wales Island Seal

Take a Scenic Boat Tour From Prince of Wales Island

Prince of Wales Island is a lesser-known location in Southeast Alaska, but let that fool you! Due to limited roads and services, one of the best ways to explore Princes of Wales Island is by boat. During our recent visit, my husband and I opted to take a tour that left from the town of Craig. We traveled through inlets and waterways, seeing loads of wildlife and breathtaking views.

My favorite part of the tour was landing at Canoe Point and taking a short hike to the Canoe Point Waterfall. The 130-foot waterfall was surrounded by lush forest and dramatic basalt columns. My husband and I were blown away by the beauty! We were also lucky enough to spot a lot of wildlife including a few black bears, seals, sea otters, and whales!

Suggested tour: Whales and Waterfall Tour by Emerald Island Adventures

Location: 6000 Glacier Spur Rd 33 North Cove Harbor, Craig, AK 99921. Get directions on Google Maps.

Nearby accommodation: Aimee’s Cabin Rentals in Craig


Final Thoughts on The Inside Passage Of Southeast Alaska

I hope this guide has given you some ideas for your visit to the Inside Passage! Southeast Alaska really is one of those places that you need to see to believe… photos cannot do its beauty justice!


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Southeast Alaska's Inside Passage is one of the most breathtaking places I've ever been! The whole region is bursting with natural beauty, rich Tlingit culture, delicious food, and ample opportunities for adventure. In this guide, I am sharing 13 of the best things to do in the Inside Passage!
13 Incredible Things To Do In The Inside Passage Of Southeast Alaska

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